Honor and Protect the Earth

By Jamal Rahman

“Assuredly the creation of the heavens and earth is greater than the creation of humankind. Yet most people understand not.”  (Qur’an 17:37)

“The earth is like your mother; honor her and protect her.“   ~Hadith

The Qur’an makes it clear that the human is not superior to nature. “Do not walk upon the earth with proud self-conceit,” says the holy book, “for truly you can never rend the earth asunder, nor can you grow as tall as the mountains.” (25:63 and 17:37)

However, in the holy book, the human has been entrusted with the awesome privilege and responsibility to protect and care for the earth and the earth community. We are vice-regents of God. Alas, we have plundered, exploited and abused mother earth. Rather than lament endlessly our selfishness, greed and apathy which have led to devastating consequences, let us explore what we can do to possibly reverse the crisis.

First, let us humbly and sincerely ask for forgiveness for our neglect and desecration, and pray for the earth’s healing. We may choose to focus on our heart and send light and love to trees, rivers, oceans, mountains and animals, both in meditative prayers and in the course of our everyday wakeful life. These prayer practices are no small matter. Imagine how a person who has been abused for decades might feel and respond even if one person acknowledged that survivor’s pain and offered love, compassion and healing.

Second, initiate or support creative projects and programs that restore harmony, balance and love in nature. For instance, follow the example of the Prophet who encouraged people to plant trees whenever possible. 

“Even if you fear that the Last Day has arrived,” he said, “plant the sapling you hold in your hand.”

Third, reflect on what the Qur’an calls divine signs of God in nature. Sufi teachers say that the most holy scripture is the manuscript of nature. Every aspect of human learning is available in nature. To comprehend unity in diversity, notice that the branches of a tree sway differently in the wind, but they are all connected at the roots. To awaken to our incredible potential, observe the tiny acorn growing into a mighty oak tree. To understand humility, see that it is the tree laden with fruit that bows down. To appreciate the meaning of generosity, notice how the tree does not consume its own fruit; it yields to our needs again and again, to rich or poor.

Indeed, may we honor and protect mother earth for our own survival.

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